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Response to Review of Regency in Sixteenth-Century Scotland

 Thank you for your kind and thorough review. I’m glad that the book provoked these questions.

  1. Traditionally, of course, the experience of minority has been assumed to have weakened the crown and kept the nobility strong. My sense is that regency was the preferred choice for governance during royal minorities precisely because it was the closest option to personal monarchy available. As such, I remain unconvinced that minority or regency per se caused changing views of monarchy. Rather, it seems to be that opinions of both developed in dialogue and in tandem – Buchanan’s new accounts of the origins of power for both monarchs and regents in 1568 are a case in point. The question of whether monarchs were ever compared unfavourably to regents is a good one, but it is not something for which I have seen evidence. My sense is that it would have been rather impolitic to draw such a comparison, especially since the Stewart dynasty was so longstanding and secure. However, Buchanan’s borderline hagiographical treatment of Moray in his History was probably designed to serve as an exemplar for James VI of godly governance.
  2. I had also noticed the changing language and level of formality between letters which regents wrote in their own names and those written in the name of the monarch. This is not something on which I have conducted a comprehensive study, but it is clear that the monarch’s name was employed in the case of quotidian diplomatic business such as requests for passports – in this instance, direct monarchical involvement was a fiction anyway, so regency required no new style. Beyond this, there does not seem to have been a clear-cut convention. Regents never wrote in their own names to Scandinavian monarchs, but writing in their own name was more usual when addressing monarchs with whom they had more regular diplomatic contact, such as the English and French rulers. In these instances, the decision seems to have been based on the interplay of a range of factors – the regent’s relationship with the monarch previously at that point in time, the state of relations between Scotland and the foreign power more broadly, and the purpose of the letter. A letter conveying and requesting news, for instance, would be sent from the regent in their own name to the monarch, one making an intervention in official relations between the realms would not. Despite having looked hard, I did not identify any changes to the iconography of the seals.
  3. In July 1567 James’ presence at the English court was doubtless attractive as an opportunity to exert control in Scotland and influence the potential heir to the English throne, even if in 1567 Elizabeth still seemed likely to marry and produce an heir. However, Elizabeth’s possession of James did not hold the potential for amalgamation with Scotland which Mary, Queen of Scots’ marriage to Edward VI would have done. Mary’s marriage to Edward VI would have hastened dynastic union and ensured it took a form which instituted English dominance over Scotland; James’ presence at the English court would have facilitated control during his minority, helped to ensure favourable relations during his personal rule and smoothed the path of a (from the perspective of the English in 1567) worst-case scenario Scottish accession. In any case, there is no evidence that the prospect of James’ removal to England was raised on any occasion other than in the letter of 14 July 1567. The question of whether or not Elizabeth was secretly supportive of the post-Mary regime in Scotland and, as you put it, ‘playing a double game’ is of course a venerable one. There is no evidence to suggest that Elizabeth’s avowed dismay at this turn of events was anything other than genuine, or that she provided tacit encouragement to Cecil. Indeed, the fact that Nicholas Throckmorton received conflicting instructions from both of them helped to destroy his career; conversely, the careful ‘management’ of information from Scotland whereby Cecil would be given a more detailed letter than Elizabeth and then decide whether or not to pass it on suggests a genuine distance between monarch and secretary.